Meet Emily Dallas - 2018 ETC Labbie

Are you a night owl or an early riser? 

During college I always used to be a night owl. I would stay up for several days working on writing assignments and I thought the exhaustion helped me creatively. Now I have to be in bed by ten and am always up early!

How does time of day effect your work?

I find the time of day effects me less than if I’ve eaten or not. I’m always the most productive after a great lunch, or while sipping a cappuccino.

When did you begin writing musical theatre? Did something/someone inspire you?

I didn’t start writing until college. I was in my first year at Pace University. I really wanted to get noticed by Ryan Scott Oliver, one of my favourite composers, who was teaching at Pace. I decided to enrol in his writing class, hoping it would lead to him casting me in something. He never did, but I discovered this other talent I had through the process, and ended up falling in love with writing and composing. I probably spent more of my undergrad composing, not performing!  I was definitely the underdog in class, and didn’t produce anything remotely presentable until the last few weeks of that semester, but always feeling inferior helped me grow a lot quicker. I think being uncomfortable is the best thing for an artist.

Are you allowed to tell us about the piece that you are developing for Lunchbox Theatre?

Totally! Lunchbox has a spot in their season every year dedicated to a Remembrance Day show. I was commissioned this year to write a musical about women, in whatever time period I chose. Those were the only parameters, so I decided to make it fairly current. We have a large number of incredible women serving in the most challenging roles in our military, but I haven’t heard their stories, or how they overcame all of the gender barriers before them. It’s about two sisters, whose father passes away during the beginning of the war in Afghanistan. They decide to join the CAF together to carry on his memory and legacy, but as they enter their final phase of infantry training, they find more resistance to a women serving in combat than they anticipated. This starts to severe their relationship as one sister finds acceptance and camaraderie, and the other finds isolation and discrimination. I also love that the show examines female relationships from all different angles: feuding sisters, mothers and daughters, friends, mentors. All of the actors and characters are female, and there is no romance in it; but there is still so much love, in many different and equally important ways.

What was the most challenging part of the ETC Musical Theatre Lab?

Presenting things that were totally raw and unedited and in some cases, just terrible. I never present my work until it’s been thoroughly edited and examined, so having to just put something out there at 4:30 after writing it that day was really vulnerable. I learned it’s a great way for me to work, because I don’t get in my own way!

What was the most rewarding part of the ETC Musical Theatre Lab?

Building a community. We would discuss theatre and creating for a portion of our day, every day, and it was so refreshing to find people who love this art form as much as I do! It was also enlightening to hear multiple perspectives from artists with different backgrounds and disciplines. We probably could have spent the whole week just talking! Also seeing the whole piece come together. I was so nervous I couldn’t feel my hands, but that performance was one of the most magical creative moments I’ve ever had.

If you could only listen to three musicals for the rest of your life, which would they be? And, why?

Once, because of the incredible musicianship and the fact that it’s so NOT traditional musical theatre. The Bridges of Madison County. That score is simply stunning and so emotional, and you rarely find orchestrations that lush and full these days.

Next To Normal, it’s my all time favourite. I wish I had written it.

Oh! Jane Eyre. I know that’s four, but Jane Eyre is so underrated, and is so unapologetically melodramatic in the best way. The musical stakes feel so high, and every song can stand on it’s own, which is how I typically like to write.

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